February 2, 2013


A Not-So-Doomed GOP (Jonah Goldberg, February 1, 2013 , National Review)

 In states as diverse as Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Nebraska, Michigan, New Jersey, Texas, and a half-dozen others, Republicans have been implementing impressive -- even miraculous -- reforms.

In pro-Obama Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker beat back a historic attack from organized labor. And Michigan -- Michigan! -- recently became a right-to-work state, which I'm pretty sure is mentioned in the AFL-CIO's bylaws as a sign of the end times.

I think an overlooked part of the story is the fact that Americans tend to see federal and local governments differently. At the local level, people seem to have a better grasp that it's their tax dollars at work. They are far more sensitive to tax increases and more easily outraged by spending boondoggles. They understand the importance of sustainable economic growth.

This fact benefits Republicans, although state-level Democrats tend to be more fiscally responsible at the local level as well. (Rahm Emanuel is far more fiscally responsible as Chicago's mayor than he ever was as Obama's chief of staff.)

Meanwhile, what gets Republicans elected at the local level gets them in trouble at the federal level. Again, there are many reasons for this. But I think one of them is that we've come to see the federal government as some sort of mystical entity empowered to right all of the wrongs in society. If there's a problem, there "should" be a federal response, the costs or feasibility of that response be damned.

While Romney's infamous riff about the "47 percent" was profoundly flawed, the simple reality is that millions of people who do, in fact, pay federal income taxes do not care about those tax dollars in the same way they care about their local tax dollars. This is true of people who get more from the federal government than they pay in, but it's also true for millions of affluent voters as well.

That is, of course, untrue, which is why W carried three consecutive national elections, running on the idea of reforming our entitlement system to make it more productive and efficient.  At the state level these governors have run on the same policies.  It is only at the national level that GOP nominees, activists, lobby groups, and think tanks labor under the delusion that folks are so concerned about those tax dollars that they want to get rid of the social safety net.  Had Mitt just run as he governed MA instead of as the Beltway wanted to he'd have won too.He could have beaten Obamacare with Romneycare.  He couldn't beat it with nothing.  Nihilism isn't conservative.  

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Posted by at February 2, 2013 9:22 AM

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